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How I learnt to cope with my panic attacks

Generation Tribe co-founder Charlotte Harding on how she learned to cope with panic attacks.

Your chest tightens and you can’t breathe. A panic attack can be different for different people, but for me it felt like my world was closing in and I could never catch my breath.

I have always been a nervy person – exams or public speaking my palms would get sweaty and my heart would race, but I always thought that was ok, my fight or flight kicking in.

When I went to university it all came to a head. At school and college, I was surrounded by people I knew in familiar surroundings.

But university was different. New people, a different way of working and a new city. While I loved my course I became unhappy.

I started to skip lectures and felt aimless, while the panic attacks also started.

I wouldn’t always know when it would happen but I would feel overwhelmed and it would flare up.

I went to the doctor and was put on beta blockers. I felt like I was going to have a panic attack but the symptoms wouldn’t happen, no increased heart rate or panic.

What are beta blockers?
Beta blockers (beta-adrenoceptor blocking agents) work mainly by decreasing the activity of the heart by blocking the action of hormones like adrenaline.

But I didn’t like the way they made me feel so it got to a point and I knew I had to do something. I booked to see a campus counsellor.

I had a good support network of my friends and family but it felt good to talk to someone I didn’t know.

They listened and I talked and talked. It felt like a release.

Now I am by no means ‘better’, but I know how to deal with my stress and anxiety. I know the signs and know if I need to I can see a counsellor.

I also found running a fantastic release. To be able to lace up my trainers, put in my headphones with an amazing play list and just run. I live near the sea and it is the perfect place to clear your head.

Most people say it’s OK to not be OK and they are right. You don’t have to be happy all the time, just know there is help and support out there for you if you need it.

Useful links

For information on where you can go for help, visit mental health charity Mind’s website.

Read more: Why counselling in my teens has done wonders for my mental health

Why it’s okay not to be okay

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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